June 23, 1921 – Sept. 5, 2017
Calspan Corp. hailed Roger C. Weatherston as its most prolific inventor when he was promoted to executive engineer at its Cheektowaga testing facility in 1977. At that time, he held 15 patents. When he retired in 1983, he had 22.
He was most widely recognized for his invention of the scroll compressor, which is used in most of today’s air conditioning and refrigeration systems. His compressor design increased the efficiency of the units and made them maintenance-free.
“You probably have one of his inventions in your house if you have an air conditioner,” his daughter Mary Weatherston Pitts said.
Mr. Weatherston died Tuesday under hospice care in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a lengthy illness. He was 96.
Born in Buffalo, he was a 1939 graduate of Hutchinson Central High School and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in December 1942.
He then served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, training statestide as a flight engineer. He attained the rank of second lieutenant and was about to be assigned overseas when the war ended.
Mr. Weatherston returned to Purdue, completed his master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1948 and joined what was then Cornell Aeronautical Laboratories, where his early research focused on improvements to jet engines. After the launch of Sputnik in 1957, he concentrated on aerospace developments in the Aerodynamics Research Department.
He devised a method that allowed the Air Force to test materials to be used on the heat shields for space capsules. He also studied the problems of power and heat elimination in space satellites and rockets.
“He explained to me that the Air Force approached Cornell and said they wanted to be able to test materials at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” his daughter says. “How do you keep the device you use for testing from burning up at that temperature? He came up with the solution.”
In 1976, he received the Aerospace Pioneer Award for his contributions to the field of non-steady gas dynamics.
In retirement, he worked for about 10 years as a consultant for manufacturing companies that used his compressor.
He was active in the Williamsville United Methodist Church for more than 30 years, serving as a Sunday school teacher and assisting in maintenance and fundraising events.
After his wife of 59 years, the former Marion McIntosh, was injured in an auto accident in 1990, he became her devoted caregiver. She died in 2006.
Survivors include two sons, Thomas R. and William A.; three daughters, Mary Weatherston Pitts, Barbara J. Cole and Janice W. Connelly; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 8 in Williamsville United Methodist Church, 5681 Main St., Williamsville.